meaning of arya


Author : Pt Dharmdev Vidyamartand 

Western scholars have repeatedly said in their works that Aryas came from outside (most probably from Middle Asia) and committed a lot of atrocities on aborigins (Dravidians) who were called by Aryas as “Das “ or “Dasus ” or Anaryas.

Their view also finds its echo in the “Vedic Age” in which it is stated : “The Aryan invaders or immigrants found in India two groups of people, one whom they named the ‘Dasas ‘or ‘Dasyus ‘, and the other, ‘Nishadas ‘.”

Who are Aryans? Do Aryans form any race? First of all we will try to find out the real meaning of the word Arya. This word has been defined thus in Rigveda’s 10.65.11 :

rig 10.65.11

(Aryans are those, who practice on this earth, the vows of truth, non-violence, purity etc.) The word आर्य comes from the root ऋ which means गति प्रापणयो. According to this root, Aryas are those who have acquired knowledge, who are ever marching towards the path of progress and properity and who are actively engaged in God realisation.

sanskrit dictionary

(i.e. Arya means one who is respectable, revered, religious minded, a generous person, who is above the considerations of caste, creed and colour, who is self-poised and quiet because of implicit faith in God, who always follows the righteous path and never swerves from what is just and right, who is conscientious in performance of his duty and who avoids all that is sinful and unethical or immoral.)

Mahabharat has thus defined the “Arya”:

mahabharat arya

(He is Arya who does not inflame the hatred or jealousy once subsided, who is neither egoistic nor depressed, who does not commit sin even in misery, who does not show too much happiness even in prosperity or gets out of control; who never takes delight in others” troubles and who never regrets after giving anything in charity.)

It is clear that anybody who embodies these qualities is, आर्य irrespective of what family, society or country he belongs to or Whether his colour is black, white or wheatish.

According to Maharshi Vyas, an Arya manifests eight qualities which are :

vyas and arya

(That man is Arya who is a man of knowledge, ever-contented, self-controlled, truthful, disciplined, charitable, kind hearted and polite.)

In Nirukta Maharshi Yashka has defined the word आर्य as ईश्वरपुत्र (the son of God). The word आर्य means स्वामी (Master) परमेश्वर (God). (अर्य, स्वामी वैश्ययो: ) Thus, one who is the real son of God and obeys His commands, is आर्य. In Vedas, Upanishadas, Ramayana, Mahabharat and Gita, the word आर्य is used for a gentleman and dasyu दस्यु for the wicked.

ln Balmiki Ramayana, Narada uses the word Arya for Rama :

valmiki ramayan and arya

(Rama was religious minded, a man of pure living, looking at everybody with equal eyes and lovable like moon.)

Keeping all this in view Sri Aurbindo said :

“The word Arya expresses a particular ethical and social order of well-governed life, candour, courtesy, nobility, straight dealing, courage, gentleness, purity, humanity, compassion, protection of the weak, liberality, observance of social duties, eagerness for knowledge, respect for the wise and the learned and the social accomplishments.

“There is no word in human speech that has a nobler history. The Arya is he who strives and overcomes all outside him and within him that stands opposed to human advance. Self-conquest is the first law of his nature. He overcomes mind and its habits and he does not live in a shell of ignorance, inherited prejudices, customary ideas, pleasant opinion, but knows how to seek and choose, to be large and flexible in intelligence even as he is firm and strong in his will, for in everything, he seeks truth and freedom.

“The Arya is a Worker and a warrior. Always he fights for the coming of the kingdom of God within himself and the world.”


The word dasyu दस्यु has its root as दसु  उपक्षये Giving its deravative meaning Yaskaracharya writes in Nirukta (7.23) :

nirukta 7.23

(He is Dasyu who has very few virtues and who causes obstruction to good actions like the performance of the Yajnas)

In the Vedas, Dasyu has been described as follows :

veda and dasyu

(Dasyu is one who is cruel, hard,selfish, and who entertains thoughts of falsehood, violence, theft, deception etc.)

In Rigveda 10.65 .11  Dasyu has been stated as one who has no faith in the existence of God; but is dacoit, a thief, on betrayer of confidence, foolish, licentious, aggressor, obstructor of good deeds, selfish etc :

veda and dasyu 1

There is a great emphasis in the Vedas on the elimination of such Dasyus as they are a great threat to the society.

In Rigveda l.ll7.3 the adjective used for Dasyus is आशिवस्व (who creates trouble and causes misery). In Rigveda 4.l 6.9) दस्यु, has been described as मायावान अब्रह्मा दस्यु: (who indulges in deception and self-deception) who has no faith in the teachings of the Vedas and who is narrow-minded.

It is clearly stated in the Vedas that the difference between the Aryas and Dasyus is mainly because of their respective actions. No discrimination is, otherwise, made on the ground of caste or creed etc.

There is also instruction इन्द्र (or a king) to purify the Dasyu and uplift him forgiving his past sins.

In the followqing mantra from Rigveda (6.22. lO) for instance, it is clearly stated :

rig 6.22.10

(O. Indra, you have the power to uplift the Dasyus engaged in obstructing the religious acts and make them Arya i.e. noble, religious minded, dutiful and men of noble character.)

In the Vedas the idea of uplifting of the impure and converting all the people of the world into Aryas occurs repeatedly at several places, Here are three mantras embodying this idea :-

veda and dasyu 2

(In the first mantra righteous truthful scholars have been asked to uplift( उन्नयथ) those who are fallen

( अवहितम) and to inject new life ( पुनःजीवयथ ) in those who have committed sins or crimes ( आग: चक्रुषम् ) In the second mantra, God ordains the righteous to convert the whole universe into Arya by increasing their own will power and acquiring knowledge and wealth, by being active and freeing themselves from all selfishness and narrowness. कृण्वन्तोविश्वमार्यम is the motto of all the Aryas.

In accordance with this motto, it is the duty of all Aryas to make every effort to tum Dasyus into Aryas.

In the third mantra, a devotee prays to God, “O the preserver of noble persons, either you keep away from us those who are वृजिनम (sinners), स्तेनम(thieves) or let them also tread the righteous path.”

From these instructions and prayers, it is clear that Aryas tried to bring even Dasyus into their fold, but if they found them to be too wicked and harmful for the society as a whole, they considered it to be their duty to eliminate them. while defining Arya or Dasyus Vedas never took into consideration the lineage of a person as is clear from the following mantra :-

veda and dasyu 3

(O, the noble among the people, Indra, you destroy both the types of enemies- first, who by nature, put obstruction to performance of good deeds or those who, though born in good families, deviate from the righteous path and start indulging in low actions.

It has been rightly observed in Mahabharata that Dayus belong to all Varnas and Ashramas:-

mahabharat and dasyu

lt is thus clear that to regard Dasyus, Dasas and Panins to be of different race from Aryas and to believe that they were the original inhabitants of India, is absolutely without foundation. There is also no truth in the contention that Vedas express any feeling of animosity towards them.

If at some places such words as असिक्नीत्वचम्  have been used for them, they are not meant to be taken literally. If we take them in their proper context, they would be found to have a figurative meaning.

Even when the word “black” has been used for Dasyus the  reference is to those who are पाणी (पणव्यवहारे) selfish, अक्रतून (who have no faith) and अयज्यून(who do not perform Yajna (Rjgvedas 7.6.3).

Zardushta says in Ustavaiti :-

“That I will ask thee, tell me it right, thou living God, who is religious and who the impious, after who l wish to inquire, who of the two has the black spirit and who the bright one? Is it not right to consider the impious man who attacks me and thee, to be a black one.”

Now in the above quotation, the wicked persons have been firstly described as ‘black spirit’ and later indentified as black. Such figurative use of the word “black” “convinces us that it does not always denote colour of one’s skin rather his character.

The difference between the “Aryas` and the “Dasyus” was based on their qualities, actions and temperament and not on “racial differences”. Even Dasyus could become Aryas by reforming themselves.

Such admission has also been made atleast once in Vedic Age” itself:

“Atleast one Dasa Chief, however, named Balbuth had adopted Aryan culture and even patronised Brahmín singers and risis.”

We do not agree with the historical aspect of this episode. We have given this quotation only to drive home the point that Aryans had not come from outside.

In this context the authors of the Vedic Age comment :

“It is significant that as a rule, Indra himself has been made to combat the Dasa priest on his own initiative and not in the course of rendering merely routine assistance to Aryan chiefs. For it shows

that even in the heyday of Rigvedic culture, there was no longer a living memory of the first encounter with the aboriginal races”

The truth of the matter is that there were no such racial wars between India and dasyus or dasas. Aryans had not come from outside. They were the inhabitants of this country.

Says Swami Dayanand in his book “The Light of Truth.”

“No name had been given to this country (India) before and no one lived in it till the Aryas came to it from Tibet soon after the creation”

Dealing with the beliefthatflryas had come from Iran and the Rakshas lived in jungles before and that Aryas used to consider themselves as Devatas and there were battles between Aryas and Asuras (known as “Devasur Sangram), he further asserts :

“This is absolutely incorrect because Aryas and Asuras have been depicted in the Rigveda as :-

rig 1.51.8

(i.e. Aryas are those who are religious minded, learned and noble while Asuras or Dasas are those who are wicked, irreligious and ignorant.)

P.T. Srinivas, a well-known South Indian scholar, has also maintained in his book “Dravídian Studies ” that the “Difference between the ”Aryas” and “Dasyus’ is not racial out based on their respective qualities, actions and temperament”

He writes :-

“The Aryas and Dasyus or Dasas are referred to not as indicating different races ……… ..The words refer not to race but to cult ……. . .The Dasyus are without rites, fireless, non-sacrificers, without prayers, without rites, haters of prayers. Thus the difference between Aryas and Dasyus was not one of race, but ofcult.”

V.R. Ramachandra Dikshitar, another South Indian scholar, says :

“The fact is that the Dasyus were not non-Aryans. The theory that the Dasyus – Dravidians inhabited the Panj ab and the Ganges valley at the time of the so-called Aryan invasion of India, and overcome by the latter, they fled to South India and adopted it as their home cannot stand. To say that all India was a wild country once, and that it was civilized by the invading Dravidians first and by the invading Aryans next, cannot carry conviction home ……….. .

“In the same way we have to took upon the theory of the Dravidian race. If the Aryan race theory is a myth, the theory of the Dravidian race is a greater myth. The word Dravida is the name for the speakers of a group of South Indian languages, Tamil, Malayalam, Kanarese and Telugu.”

Muir is among the Western Scholars who have written quite a lot on “Aryas” “Dasyus” or Dravidians.

In Original Sanskrit Texts (Vol. II p. 387) Muir writes :

“I have gone over the names of Dasyus orAsuras mentioned in the Rigveda with the view of discovering whether any of them could be regarded as of non-Aryan or indigenous origin, but I have not observed anything that may appear to be of this character.”

German scholar Max Muller writes about Dasyus :-

“Dasyu simply means enemy; for instance, Indra is praised because he destroyed the “Dasyu” and protected the Aryan colour.”

At another place writing about मातुधान and राक्षस he writes :-

“They (the epithets) are too general to allow us the inference of any etymological conclusions.”

The expression “Aryan” was also given currency by him but in the later years of his life in 1888, he writes :-

“I have declared again and again that if I say Aryan, I mean neither blood nor bones, nor hair nor skull; I mean simply those who speak an Aryan language ………… . To me an ethnologist who speaks of Aryan race, Aryan blood, Aryan eyes and hair, is as great a sinner as a linguist who speaks of a dolichocephalic dictionary or a brachycephalic grammar”

Famous compiler of the Sanskrit Dictionary Roth says :-

“lt is but seldom, if at all, that the explanation of ‘Dasyu’ as referring to the non-Aryans, the barbarians, is advisable.”

In his book “Brief View of the Caste System of the North West Provinces and Oudh”, another Western scholar Nesfield clearly writes :-

“There is no division of the people as the Aryan conquerors of India and the aborigines of the country; that division is modem and that there is essential unity of the Indian races. The great majority of

the Brahmins are not of lighter complexion or of finer or better red features than any other caste or distinct in race and blood from the scavangers who swept the roads.”

Likewise many other quotations can be given to prove that some Western scholars themselves have contradicted the theory of racial differences between the Aryas and the Dravidians.


Most people hold the view that South Indian languages like Tamil, Kannda, Malyalam, and Telugu, which are collectively known as Dravidian languages, have no genetic connection with the Sanskrit language; that they are completely two sets of independent languages. This view supported and encouraged by many Western scholars for extraneous reasons, is not true. This view in fact had been mostly propagated by those who wanted to create misunderstanding and animosity among the people of the North and the South, between Dravidians and the Aryas.

For instance, South Indian scholar Tamby Pillai quoting Dr. Taylor, writes in “Tamilían Antíquary” (Vol. II No. 2)

“It was proved years ago by Dr. Taylor that a TAMILIAN Language now represented by its most cultivated branch in the South Tamil constituted the original staple of all the languages of India. The existence of a Tamilian substratum in all the modem dialects of India and of the profound influence, which the classical Tamil has exercised on the forrnation and development of both the Vedic and classical Sanskrit, is gradually coming to be recognised by students of Indian philosophy.”

Almost similar view has been expressed by Dr. Gundert and other Western scholars like Rhys Davids.

T.S. Shesh Iyangar, writes in his book “The Ancient Dravidians”:-

“Prof. Rhys Davids in his book “Buddhist India” commenting on the evolution of the Aryan languages of India maintains that the Vedic Sanskrit is largely mixed up With primitive Dravidían.”

But we consider such views to be thoroughly incorrect and ridiculous. With so many Sanskrit words to be found in Bangla, Gujarati, Marathi, Panjabi and Pali, we think it is unnecessary to prove that the mother of all these languages is Sanskrit. It is no less blasphemous to consider any of the South Indian languages, even Tamil, to be the origin of these languages.

I had the opportunity of living in South for over 20 years.

During the course of my stay there, I applied myself to the learning of these languages.

On the basis of my study I have no hesitation in saying that so many words in these languages have their origin in Sanskrit.


Some of the Kannad words which are purely Sanskrit words are :-

kannad and sanskrit

There would be no exaggeration in saying that 75% of words in Telugu version of the Mahabharata are originally Sanskrit words. Some of the Telugu words which have actually been taken from Sanskrit are :

telagu and sanskrit

To call such a language (which is full of Sanskrit words) as an independent Dravidian language and to say it has no links with Sanskrit, is very erroneous. Unfortunately people in North India,

who are not acquainted with South Indian languages, are easily misled by such false notions.


In Malyalam language there are more Sanskrit words than even in Kannad and Talugu.

Former speaker of the Lok Sabha the late Anant Shayanam Ayanger, had once rightly obseved :-

“The Sanskrit was the fountain head of all Indian languages. All Indian languages were offshoots of Sanskrit. Bengali and Telugu have about 75% Sanskrit words, while Malayalam about 90 percent. The only change was that the Sanskrit words have been absorbed with slight changes here and there.”

Some of the Malyalam words, which have their origin in Sanskrit, are :-

malyalam and sanskrit

It is also said that Tamil has an independent language having no relation with Sanskrit. To illustrate this, reference been has been Kamban Ramayana.” But it is merely an illusion. Not only in modem but also in old Tamil literature, there are many Sanskrit words. The colloquial Tamil language is also full of Sanskrit words. If we read “Kamban Ramayan ” carefully, we will find that there are many Sanskrit words in their distorted form.

In the ancient Tamil Sastra “विरूधवे”, there are many Sanskrit words like नीराह (which means to take bath etc) In नालार तिरुवाम भाषी which is considered to be Tamil Veda, there are many Sanskrit words like नैटटेकरने तिरुवाम माषी etc.

प्रकाश (light) आनंद (happiness) पूर्ति (fulfilment) are all pure Sanskrit words. In daily language also जलम{(for water) and आम(for yes) are actually Sanskrit words. Likewise many more such words can be added.

Because of shortage of alphabets in the Tamil language, Sanskrit words which find their place it it, cannot be written. This is why separate script has come into existence for Sanskrit words.

In Tamil words like नगर (town) शिव धनुष (Shiva’s arrow) अतिशोध्र(very fast)  जनकपुत्री(Janak’s daughter)  विवाह(marriage) प्रजा (subject) दम्पोती  (couple) संतोष (contenment) have their origin in Sanskrit.

These illustration sufficc to contradict the view that Tamil has nothing to do with Sanskrit. According to some Tamil as well as Sanskrit scholars, at least 50% words in Tamil have been taken from Sanskrit.

Thus we see that क is made to serve the purpose of

This is the reason why some purely Sanskritised words are found in their corrupted form in Tamil.

For instance अग्निम{cannot be pronounced in Tamil because it does not occur among the alphabets o this language as क serves the purpose क, ख, ग,घ | “अग्नि” therefore, will be written and pronounced in Tamil as आवनि.

Even भगवान is spoken in Tamil as पकवान because प  is used for प,फ,व,ग,घ . EI’ and E5 for H-7, E, ’11, U. Those who know little Sanskrit can easily find the Sanskrit origin of such Tamil words.

Likewise Sanskrit word मंडलमis Written and pronounced in Tamil as मण्डलं and अग्रजन्मन as आक्कर जन्मन  (It is because in Tamil ट is used for ट,ठ,ड, ढ  and च for च, छ,ज,झ |

The main ancient grammar of Tamil was written by Telkappíyanar, a son of Jamadagni and a disciple of Agastya. His contemporary पनम्वनार I has made it clear in the introduction to his grammar book that Telkappiyanar (whose second name was Trinadhaymagni, has full command over lndia’s Sanskrit grammar.

T.R. Shesh Ayyangar, has written in his book “The Ancient Dravidians” that this grammar was written not later than 4th century B.C. German scholar B.C. Burnell writes in his book the “Aindra school of Sanskrit Grammaríans “published in 1875, that this Tamil Grammar was based on the tradition set by Sanskrit grammar by lndra.

Telkappiyanar”s grammar Was translated by Dr. P.S. Subrahmaniam Sastri. In his introduction, he says about this ancient scholar :- “Telkappiyanar was conversant with Vedas, Dharma Sastras, Kama Sutra, early Alankara literature, the source book of Natya Sastra, Pratisakhya works and Nirukta in Sanskrit literature and made use of them in planning his grammar book.”

Thus we see that it is not because of a few sanskrit words in Tamil but because of similarly in Sanskrit and Tamil in respect of grammar, sound, sentence structure etc. that a close relationship exists between the two.

The author of Kannad a Grammar, Naga Varma “belonging to l2th century) has described Tamil, Telugu and Kannada languages as the daughters of Mother Sanskrit. The author of the Telugu grammar (belonging the 13th century), Ketana, has stated that Sanskrit is the Mother of all languages. The author of the Malayalam grammar belonging to the 14th century writes :-

kannad grammer and sanskrit

(Sanskrit is eternal and all other languages have their beginning and an end. Sometimes, the words in other languages can be easily traced to their Sanskrit origin and sometimes it is difficult to find out their origin. Examples of this have been given by the author of Malayalam Grammar in “Sanskrit Lilatilakam”

The authors of “A history of Telugu Literature” in the “Heritage of India” series have stated :-

“An analysis of Telugu, as it has been for centuries, confirms the traditional view that Telugu is derived from Sanskrit”

Dr. Narayan Rao has also expressed the same view in “History of the Telugu Language” :-

“Telugu is one of the descendants of a main Aryan Dialect.”

L. Ravi Venna has, in his book “आर्य द्रविड़ भाषा कलूटे परक्पर संबंधम” given a list of 700 Malayalam words with their Sanskrit origin.

This relationship between Sanskrit and other Dravidian languages shows how ridiculous is the view of the authors of the Vedic Age and others, who have tried to depict these languages as completely independent.

In this context it will not be out of place, to stress relation between Tamil Veda with Vedic Scriptures. It is not known with any certainty as to when The Tamil Veda was written. It is, however, believed that it was written by a Tamil Saint Tiruvalluvar in the First Century. It contains teachings on spiritual, social, political matters which appear to have been drawn from Vedic Scriptures.

We are bound to be reminded of many Sanskrit verses and passages while reading Tamil Veda. We are sure that the author of the Tamil scripture would have certainly known and read the Indian scriptures and derived inspiration from them”

In the “Vedic Age” attempt has been made at several places to establish the superiority of Dravidian civilization over the Vedic civilization. For instance, it says that Dravidian speaking mediterranean people in India were responsible for cities and city culture for a real civilisation in the true sense of the word including international trade.”

First of all, it is still doubtful that the Harappa and Mohenjodaro civilisation was influenced by Dravidians, because their script is still difficult to decipher and even these authors themselves are not sure about it.

This is a very controversial subject. Several scholars are of the view that Aryas themselves were responsible for building these cities. We, who consider Dravidians as the offshoots of Aryas, consider this whole controversy to be meaningless.

Moreover it should not be forgotten that even people in the Ramayana era were very competent in building big houses and cities. There are descriptions of big and palatial bungalows and palaces in Vedas too.

rig 2.4.3

Here there is mention of thousand pillared places in which the King and Prime Minister took their seat along with the ministers of the assembly.

ath 9.3.21

(Here there is reference to the ten roomed dwelling houses.)

Those who have read about the cities in Ramayana with their big expansive broadways, palatial storeys pirched with jewels, and fitted with thousands of canons, big gardens and trees etc., find it impossible to believe in the theory that Aryans learnt the architecture or building houses from the Dravidians. lt is mentioned that ambassadors and traders from different countries used to live there. There were also theatre houses exclusively for women.

Even description of Indraprastha falsifies the contention of the authors of the ‘Vedic Age” that the art of city building and civilisation were the contributions of the Dravidians. It is claimed that Dravidians were so advanced that they used to undertake Voyages on the ship and do trade transactions with others.

Description of such ships already exists in the vedas :-

veda and ship

As pointed out by Dr. Radha Kamud Mukaerjee in his book “Shipping in Ancient lndia”, “Aryas used to travel by ships and transact business with people from other countries”



3 thoughts on ““ARYA” AND ‘ANARYA’”

  1. Arya and Anarya article has very vast knowledge and logic.very much true facts specialy sanskrit and south indian languages comparison. The words Arya, dasyu Rakshas Anarya are amazing meaning. very very thanks for this article

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